Architecture has been a bit of an elitist subject, historically. It tends to be richer people who can pay for good architects and get the benefits, while cheaper houses tend to be built to a template, whole streets looking the same. But what if houses were modular, and you could plan your own home from pre-designed parts?
Wikihouse is a project to create open-source components for house building. They are designed to be cut to order and then slotted together, meaning you can essentially print a house and assemble it like a giant kit. No construction skills are required, as it all hammers together with wooden wedges that are included in the templates. In fact, so is the hammer.
Wikihouse democratises building design and construction, making it possible for anyone to build what they need.
“The open secret is that in reality almost everything we today call architecture is actually design for the 1%” says Wikihouse co-designer Alastair Parvin. “The challenge facing the next generation of architects is how, for the first time, we will make our client not the 1% but the 100% – to radically democratise the production of architecture.”
The vision of the Wikihouse project is to develop a community of people using these elements and sharing their designs. In future, it would be possible to browse the options, choose what you need, and download cutting plans for a house. The materials can then be cut out of a standard sheet of plywood or other material and assembled. Beginners might want to make a kennel or an item of furniture, but in theory you could build a whole house this way. Anyone could rally a few friends and do a barnraising over a weekend.
That’s the theory, and I’ve been hesitant to write about Wikihouse before because it didn’t seem to be a proven concept. That changed this summer with the construction of a Wikihouse as part of the London Design Festival.
The idea of a ‘Wikipedia of stuff’ is in its early stages, but as technologies like CNC milling and 3D printing become cheaper, there will be more and more experiments like Wikihouse.
Now, I happen to be in the market for a new shed. I wonder…